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Saturday, November 21, 2009

The 'apres' voila...

Triumphant, Hrunting and I look toward future conquests...yes I am aware my shirt matches the scissors. I wish I could take a photo of my camera, it is this same shade of purple. And my back pack. (And I'm too lazy to put accents on 'apres' and 'voila', so, sorry.)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Yes, I save about 60 euros...

...but at great cost to my sanity.

the 'avant'

meh, I can do better

Oh dear, how will this all end? Will I manage to finally fix the damage I inflicted on myself this summer, or shall I further anger the style gods? Only the Fates know. I shall go forth armed only with my new hair scissors, and they shall be purple and they shall be called Hrunting.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

happy news

Life is hard. Even for those few people who managed to make all the "right" decisions and happened to be in all the right places at the right times. Even they have obstacles and moments of head-against-wall banging.

And the rest? The ones who make horrible choices, or have all the worst possible chances in the world dumped on them, or who just can't catch a break? I marvel at how they just keep coming back, how they just keep taking what they're dealt and making something from it.

Okay, so this is obviously about someone in particular, who probably falls somewhere in between those two categories.

Regardless of setbacks, he attacked every new enterprise with energy and panache, risking everything each time. This guy can do nothing if not reinvent himself in order to meet new expectations. In every best sense, he is not the same guy I first met 8 years ago. Achieving that kind of growth, taking all the best bits out of life and learning from them, and not letting the bad bits make you bitter, is nothing short of extraordinary.

So LM, I'm so glad and proud that the fine Colorado State University looked at your application, the crazy, crooked path you took to get where you are today and thought sure, we need one of those here.

Fort Collins has no idea what's in store.


Well, Puccini, I’ll be sleeping tonight

Believe me, I’m not an expert. I have no technical knowledge of music and I can’t play an instrument. My interest in opera sadly doesn’t go much further than adoring the wacky stories and soaring music. But so far—much like a dog on a car trip oblivious to the ultimate destination--the excitement and drama in the moment of the live performance has been enough to draw me back again and again.

There’s something about opera that makes everyday life seem grander, isn’t there? Why just introduce yourself as the deposed King of Tartary in a few plain words, when you can sing about it for half an act? Why get a job to buy firewood when you can die dramatically of consumption in your lover’s arms? Prostitutes and valets sing songs just as beautiful as those sung by the viscounts and baronesses.

I had heard a while ago that a cinema here in Rennes showed live, HD transmissions of Met performances. And then a few days ago I saw that they were showing Turandot this weekend. Despite being one of Puccini’s more widely criticized pieces, I’ve always wanted to see Turandot. I don’t know why exactly; if it’s the take-no-sass heroine, the fact that this opera has one of THE GREATEST tenor arias in the history of lyric theater ever (seriously, if it doesn’t make you a little teary-eyed every time you hear it, you have no soul), or the hilarity of the subtle racism that results from casting a bunch of whities in a story set in Peking.

Whatever the exact reason, I needed to see this opera. I just had to see the Chinese princess, so icy and immovable, up there on her throne, coldly sentencing her suitors to death. By Saturday afternoon, I was buzzing around, humming a cheap, amateur’s version of Nessun dorma. I had to see the part where the last suitor answers Turandot’s 3 riddles…ah! How will it end!?! Maybe this time Turandot will hate the prince and have him killed too? Maybe the prince will actually realize that Turandot is not a lovely, young Chinese vixen but instead a buxom, 40-year-old émigré from Austria!? Maybe not! That eye make-up is thick!

Oh, most tragic of all! I did not get to see the ending. I didn’t even make it to Nessun dorma (first scene of act 3). The transmission all through the first Act was patchy and distracting. And by the time the first intermission came around, enough people had left to complain that the manager of the cinema came in to stop the transmission and start talking about reimbursements. I shot a woeful glance to the woman next to me, who said that in all the performances she had been to, that had never happened before. Apparently, all the venues showing that performance last night were having trouble with the signal. My options now are to get my money back, or go back next week and see the recorded version. Oh spite! How cutting! Quelle grande deception.

For the moment, I’m feeding my unrequited desire of seeing people flinging themselves dramatically around stage, by watching YouTubed versions of Pavarotti’s Nessun dorma, and prowling the websites of various European opera houses. It might take La Scala to satisfy me now.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Look what I found, dated June 18, 2009


Headquarters demands that I update (says he wants something new to read.)
So, what have I been up to? Not much. Lately, I’ve been catching up on my reading, sunbathing (yes, there have actually been a handful of non-dismal days) and avoiding the horrifying piles of crap strewn about my apartment that I’m pretty sure will come alive one of these nights and suffocate me. Oh yeah, and I’ve occasionally been putting in 9, maybe even 10 hour work-weeks over at the college and primary school. Tough.

Also, I got my application in to Rennes II (or rennes too! as I like to think of it).
Also my mom came to visit during the April vacation and I got to perfect my stick-shift driving skills and she got to perfect her not-being-too-annoyed-by-the-whiplash skills.

We went to the Monts d’Arree. And a couple of Fest-Noz. And then she broke her foot on the pool slide. And then (in a strange re-enactment of my first year as an assistant) she got ‘le gastro’ while on a train to Paris. And then she was accosted and shoved by a crazy on the metro. I’m not even kidding.

And then I went to my first French wedding! In the Champagne region! In the church that my dad’s cousins have been building up for the last 15 years or so.
But then my mom and I had to drive back to Reims at 3 am after a full day of partying and they were doing tram-construction in Reims and so we drove in circles (literally) for a few hours trying to get to the Avis to drop off the car. And sometime after 5 am or so, I sort of (whoops) got pulled over by a police van. And somehow amidst my babbling, the cops felt sorry for us and so escorted us to Avis.
Yay! Finally back to the hotel! In through the front door, and then….wait….no….the room key-card doesn’t work. For a split-second, I know we both wanted to kick and scream and cry. But really, by then, all you can really do is laugh. (And then go out to a phone booth to call the night manager, because a certain cell phone provider was not working all weekend.)

And even after all that-the whiplash, the cranky daughter, vomiting, broken foot, hobbling around Paris, police intervention- she's been talking about coming back.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Seedy Underbelly of Small-Town Life

Of course, I’m writing this in order to avoid all the myriad of little tasks I actually should be doing right now. With the arrival of The Mother imminent, my list of “To Dos” is slowly increasing in length.

Eh bien. I’ll write “update blog” on that list and then immediately cross it off when I’m done here. Sorted.

2 things:

One: Monday, I charged into the salle des profs after lunch and startled the maths teacher, who had obviously been napping on the couch. He bolted upright and looked a little embarrassed, and then immediately made his way over to the computer, clicking around listlessly and obviously feigning work. I love when little instances like this occur, when I catch people being human. You see, French people are quite reserved, and on top of that, it seems like the majority of them subscribe to the same regimented schedule (one that does not involve napping at work). Like everything in France, there is most definitely a RIGHT way and then a WRONG way. Coming from casual, you-can-do-anything-you-want America, and additionally being someone who balks at any sort of routine or regularity, this ordered pattern to life can sometimes chafe me a little. (Obviously, I know most Americans lead ordered lives and that French people are not totally devoid of spontaneity. There is just a much more definite sense here of ‘how things are done’ and when they are not done that way, it sticks out as odd.)

Bref, I like be reminded that people, regardless of nationality, are just people, with different weaknesses and strengths.

Two: I finally re-took that photo that I wanted to put up a few posts ago. Sunday, I went for my afternoon walk (like everyone else) to take advantage of the uncharacteristically sunshiny weather we’ve been having of late, and ended up at the St. Pol Sailing Center. It was there that I encountered the sign that follows:

For a town with only 8000 inhabitants, it’s surprising to think that there is some sort of dark activity going on. But maybe this sign is an accurate indicator…? It reads: Dumping of dead bodies prohibited, without municipal authorisation.

::EDIT:: Whoops. Got my clarification. Check out the comments...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Inherently Good?

Despite being somewhat of a veteran in regards to this weird internship/teaching post hybrid with its imperative half-responsibilities, it still catches me off-guard when I realize, “Hey, I’m the English teacher.”

Monday, I had drifted into my own world sitting in my classroom, when I was startled by the bell. I dashed out to make my last-minute photocopies as the kids filed in. Of course, on my return, I caught a flash of French-kid sneaker rapidly retreating from the doorway, as its owner dove back into the classroom, prairie-dog style, in order to warn the other little prairie dogs of imminent danger. “Elle arrive! Mais taisez-vous!” I could hear them whisper as I approached.

Upon entering, half the class fell angelically—suspiciously—silent while the other half began frantically waving their hands in the air, bursting with what they had to share.

“Manon was standing on the table!”
“Maël said a bad word!”
“Jordan hit Estelle!”


(In other news, I received The Application today-for grad school-and I’m rapidly realizing how quixotic a scheme this is. What was I thinking? I have to submit a c.v. I’ve never written a c.v. in English before, let alone French. Pray people. This could potentially be a long, disastrous year…)

Sunday, March 8, 2009


I hate how illogical computers are. I had taken a photo of a slightly humorous sign today while on my walk, and somewhere between taking the photo and then sticking the photo card into my laptop, the photo went missing. Eh?

After fruitlessly searching techie forums online (ugh. Such big, incomprehensible words) I gave up and called The Friend. He, too, was unable to answer my question of where the picture went and how I could retrieve it.

“Maybe it was because it was really cold outside when I took the photo?” I queried. He scoffed, saying that made no sense; which made me snarky. “Oh, so my explanation of the camera getting too cold is obviously irrational, even though the problem itself doesn’t follow any logic.” Which got me to thinking, how these computery programmery types would have you believe that computers are so logical and ordered. Binary code and what-not. Except how can one logically explain why a series of actions performed a dozen times in the past (take photo, remove card, insert into laptop, retrieve photo) would suddenly produce a completely different result this time?

“Computer science. Hardly.” I spat.
“Computer psychology, more like,” he affirmed.

Binary code, my bum. 000110100 duck double 4 sandwich monkey 0011 punch in the face000111000

Follows no logic.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Lucky Girl

So, all of us over here at the collége on The Sleeve, decided that spending 6 whole weeks talking about, to and around a bunch of pre-adolescents was just about all we could take and that it was time for a holiday. By chance and semi-arbitrary, indifferent ticket-buying, I spent my entire holiday in the UK. Despite an initial hiccup in my transport—cancelled flight, kind stranger offering the services of his company to share an all expenses paid cab ride to catch a boat (Go Shell! What a nice company they are!) to Portsmouth—I arrived safely in London.

A few days were spent with my new best friends, lovely assistants of Landerneau, ( ma old turf. Okay, for only 9 months…) in the City that One Can Not Tire Of. Highlights included: the amazing hostel we stayed in (clean! 24 hour reception!), dining with a fellow alumna from my alma mater, and getting interviewed about Noel Gallagher by the BBC on the street for a children’s program.

Then it was off to Haworth to creep around the Bronte Parsonage and gape at every discarded boot, letter and fragment of ribbon amassed there of the famous Bronte sisters. I could fill reams detailing how blissful it was to gaze, enraptured, at the sofa where Emily died, etc,etc, but I’ll spare you.

Then after a Saturday morning spent re-enacting Wuthering Heights on the Yorkshire moors, I took a train-bus-train to the wild North, to visit with the Lewisaurus. (Okay, so obviously that’s not the real adjective for someone hailing from the largest Island of the West Hebrides, but that’s all I could think of when my inquiry was met with some Gaelic word I know I could never spell correctly. Lewisor? Leeewwwee..uh..eeesss…??) As she winters in Glasgow (alright, and studies there as well) she kindly allowed me to stay with her there for an entire week.

En gros, this little winter holiday has reminded me just how blessed I am. I saw it in the quick-set style friendships that made London a little bit more zesty, the kindness of the strangers in Yorkshire, and most of all, in the thoughtfulness of the dear Lewisaurus up in Glasgow. She gave up her room the week I was there, and I noticed that on her wall she had a map of Brittany, framed with photos from our year together as assistants. What can I say? I felt most blessed while looking at those photos of us together. I’m not entirely sure why, but, it does wonders for the heart to finally reach a foreign city, from another foreign city, and encounter photos of oneself, lovingly displayed.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Fest Diez

I finally (finally!) went to the local pool on Thursday and the whole experience reminded me again of Polly Platt’s wisdom in asserting that a fundamental French sentiment, intrinsic to how all of France operates, can be surmised just by going to the pool; that being that French people would much rather have something be beautiful than simple or efficient. More particularly, I always go to the pool with visions in my head of the laps I will complete and the strokes I will use and invariably I spend the whole time choking on water as I collide into oblivious be-Speedoed men cutting across lanes and dodge little groups of chatty women. From what I’ve seen all French pools come with those nice, straight lane markers along the floor, to keep one on track, but I have yet to see anyone actually notice or adhere to them. They seem to be just a waste of tile. My adopted compatriots would much rather swim in circles, or across the short width of the pool or not at all, preferring to tread, clustered together, right in front of the wall that someone might want to touch and complete her (or his!) lap. To paraphrase Polly Platt, Le place de l’etoile in Paris, around the Arc de Triomphe-that horrendous, accident-causing nightmare-is not an accident, but very much on purpose. Ben ouais…why make it simple when it can be pretty…?

My Sunday afternoon plans were almost completely ruined today when the bus I was to take—the only bus for hours—drove right by me as I was heading to the station, paused for 30 seconds, and then just kept going! And more than five minutes before the time on the schedule! However, I am ever astounded by the kindness of strangers as Manchester (the assistante in Landivisiau…) made a phone call and arranged for a woman to come pick me up and drive me to Landi so as to not miss the Fest Diez that occurred there today. I had never been to a Fest Diez (like fest noz, only during the day) so I was relieved to not miss it. At one point early on, Manchester and I were dancing next to eachother, minding our own business, when we noticed that the photographer present at the event seemed to be hovering around us two quite a bit. Strange. And then when the song ended he strode up to us and asked ‘which one of us was the American and which the English?’ He got the spelling of our names and where we were from as well.

As I just keep saying, I’ve never been so famous than as I am in Finistere.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Case of the Mean Reds

Mom says I have to post so that Pop can have something to read. Ok.

I’ve been back to work now for the last few weeks, but I just recently got my (suddenly) cavernous, echoing, dusty apartment all back in order. It was brimming with mountains of dirty laundry and recyclables; refrigerator overflowing with leftovers all set to go off the very next day after everyone left. I was feeling quite droopy and sorry for myself last week, as all of my holiday visitors flew back to wherever they had come from, leaving me alone with only the aforementioned piles of laundry, etc. for company. BUT, I guess I can’t feel too sorry for myself, since I have another vacation in a week.

Yesterday, I went on a school trip with the middle-schoolers to Caen, to see the Normandy landing beaches and the Peace Memorial. After spending 17 hours with 50 screaming, running French kids on a bus, it makes me seriously wonder what motivates anyone to become a secondary school teacher. By the end of the trip, I was driven so far past my reticence to speak French in front of the frenchies, that l yelled, “Knock it OFF already!” once or twice, myself, to the lurching, shrieking mass at the back of the bus. Middle-schoolers are fierce.

A little girl in one of my primary classes mentions occasionally that her father is from the United States. Since my first day in October when she brightly announced the fact to the class, until now, I have been quietly judging this obviously highly uninvolved, absent father, as his daughter can’t understand even the simplest of English phrases. Most of the kids don’t even have that advantage and some of them are quiet good at picking up complicated sentences. As it turns out, there is a reason she gives me a baffled expression every time I try to address an English phrase at her.

The other day she raised her hand to clarify that her father was not actually from the United States, but instead from Lithuania. They sound about as similar in French as they do in English.

You’re right Mom. Kids don’t listen.
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